Irish patients have ‘worst access’ to new drugs

Pharma industry calls on Government to increase spending on new medicines

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association  says patients deserve to know they will have access to new medicines at least as fast as patients in comparable European countries

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association says patients deserve to know they will have access to new medicines at least as fast as patients in comparable European countries

 

Irish patients have the worst access to newly launched medicines in western Europe, according to a new report by the pharmaceutical industry.

Last year, 22 per cent of all newly launched drugs in the previous two years were available here, compared to 31 per cent in 2013, the analysis for the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) indicates.

In contrast, 58 per cent of new medicines were available in Germany, and 57 per cent in the UK.

The situation for cancer medicines is even worse, with only 20 per cent available in Ireland two years after launch, the association says.

“While Ireland was once an early adopter of medicines, the evidence suggests that this is no longer the case. Through IPHA agreement [with the State], prices and spending levels are now at the average of comparable EU countries – but access to new medicines is lowest.”

The association says patients deserve to know that they will have access to new medicines at least as fast as patients in comparable European countries. “This will need sustained funding growth, a process aimed at achieving results and performance management.”

Ageing population

Health funding in Europe faces challenges from an ageing population, the rapid pace of technological innovation and unmet needs and demand, the report points out. IPHA says the Government must show a sustained commitment to increasing exchequer funding on drugs “at a reasonable rate”.

The State spending almost €2 billion annually on providing patients with drugs but the association says only about 60 per cent of this relates to the cost of the medicines themselves. The rest goes on distribution, wholesaling, VAT and non-drug items.

The report says current delays in reimbursing new drugs are “at odds” with the massive investment by leading pharmaceutical companies in Ireland. The sector employs 50,000 people and exports product totalling €39 billion.